The frozen turf at Albi Stadium warmed up in a hurry Tuesday night.
The Mead girls soccer team scorched visiting Richland for three quick goals, then held on for a 4-3 win in a 4A regional playoff game.
“We had a fantastic start,” said Panthers coach Kevin Houston, whose team advances to play Saturday at either Central Valley or Chiawana with a state playoff berth at stake. The CV-Chiawana match was postponed until today.
Thirteen seconds into Tuesday’s match, Mead forward Chae Brown took the ball down the right sideline, then fired a hard-to-handle blast past Richland goalkeeper Samantha Beck.
“I thought she was going to save it, but it had that awkward bounce and it went in,” Brown said.
Ten minutes later, Panthers senior midfielder Kylie Drynan caught a nice bounce, collecting a rebound of her own corner kick. Drynan let the ball bounce twice, then volleyed the ball into the net.
One minute after that, Brown struck again, collecting the ball after two rebounds and firing a short blast into the Richland net.
The Panthers (14-3) had several near-misses midway through the first half, but Brown left the field with a sprained knee. Coincidentally or not, the Panthers struggled, and Richland’s Tate Kautzky scored in first-half injury time.
“We talked at halftime about complacency,” said Houston, who saw the three-goal lead restored on a 20-yard blast from Alex Chambers in the 57th minute.
It was still 4-1 in the waning moments, but Kautzky hit a long volley in the 77th minute and Megan Neubauer struck from long range two minutes later before the final whistle sounded.
“The last five minutes, we lost our composure,” Houston said. “We didn’t track and didn’t mark, and that’s what happens.”
What happens next is out of the Panthers’ hands, as top seed Central Valley hosts Chiawana today. The winner goes directly to state, while the loser gets Mead.
Houston would rather not face another rematch with Central Valley, which beat the Panthers in a shootout last week for the district title.
“Absolutely not – that’s too big a battle,” said Houston, whose team beat the Bears 3-2 in a regular-season match.
Drynan disagreed. “If we play CV again, I think we’ll be ready for them,” she said.
Mt. Spokane 6, Sunnyside 0: Annie Shellerud scored six minutes into the contest and Katie Nilsson added two first-half goals as the Wildcats (11-4) blanked the visiting Grizzlies.
Sierra Bezdicek added a goal and an assist for Mt. Spokane.
The Wildcats will take on Southridge at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Spokane Falls Community College with a state berth on the line. Sunnyside was eliminated.
University 1, Hanford 0: Morgan Crosby’s 24th-minute goal was the difference as the Titans (10-5) staved off elimination with a win over the visiting Falcons. Titans keeper Ryan Rydeen made four saves. University can claim a state berth with a win Thursday at Kamiakin.
Kamiakin 6, Shadle Park 0: Parker Lee had a goal and an assist as the Braves blanked the Highlanders (3-11) in Kennewick. The Highlanders’ season is over.
Southridge 5, North Central 0: Michelle Foster scored twice and the Suns topped the Indians (5-10) in an elimination match in Kennewick.
District 7 2A
West Valley 2, Pullman 1: Jenna Sullens scored twice in the first half and the Eagles (15-2) held on to claim a state berth with a win over the visiting Greyhounds (8-7). West Valley will play Clarkston Thursday in the title match. Pullman was eliminated.
Clarkston 3, East Valley 1: Bailee Wohl, Ryen Nicholas and Brooke Morrow scored goals to lead the Bantams (13-4) past the host Knights (10-4). East Valley’s season came to a close.
District 7 1A
Freeman 6, Riverside 2: Laura Ruby and Casey Christiansen scored two goals apiece to power the Scotties (7-8) past the Rams (6-7) at Gonzaga Prep. Sierra McGarity gave Freeman a lead with a goal in the sixth minute. The Scotties advance to the bi-district tourney and play at Cascade on Saturday.
Lakeside 3, Newport 0: Ashley Cook-Cox, Callie Best and Natalie Nenno scored to give the Eagles (15-1) a win over the Grizzlies (6-4) in the title match at Gonzaga Prep. Both teams move on to the bi-district tourney.